The Instigator
AjGunnersson
Pro (for)
Tied
0 Points
The Contender
JosephHogan
Con (against)
Tied
0 Points

Socialism: could it work in the western world?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/31/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 446 times Debate No: 69238
Debate Rounds (5)
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AjGunnersson

Pro

Socialism as a definition: a political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole.

First round: Acceptance.

By accepting this argument you agree to present a valid argument in which prove socialism is not a valid form of political ideology that is suitable for the modern world.

(Take note that grammar will be a contributing factor to this debate).

Sources; www.google.com
JosephHogan

Con

I accept this debate.
Debate Round No. 1
AjGunnersson

Pro

So I begin my argument on the prospect of socialism in the western world.

Evidently due to the economic crash capitalism simply is not working and millions of people are questioning what the alternative is. The problem, of course, is that for those same millions most of their conditioning - from politicians, media, education and a good deal of their experience - will have been to answer that there is no alternative. No alternative to capitalism as such at any rate; no alternative that goes beyond a modified version of capitalism as represented by the "new" Keynesian, David Cameron, or perhaps Barack Obama.

In fact an alternative for the fascist-like qualities of capitalism is of course socialism. Socialism as existed throughout two centuries and has worked more successfully than capitalism in most examples of which it is applied correctly. It is very straightforward in comparison to capitalism - It means social (or collective) ownership and control of the main means of production (land, factories, businesses, banks, etc) and production for human need, not profit, and with this the abolition of class divisions.

The problem people have with socialism is that it is not too hard to comprehend but because it sounds unrealistic, this is a general view and not limited to a few conservative elitists but to the general populations - liberal and conservative. A lot of people find themselves being demoralized and soul-destroyed by capitalism that they become convinced that nothing as evidently sane and good as socialism could possibly ever really happen successfully.

I intend to argue that socialism is not too good to be true, that it is a perfectly reasonable and practical way of organising society, and that the various objections to it which spring into our minds, because they have been planted there by the dominant capitalist ideology, are illusory or even downright silly. I say silly because when people are deeply prejudiced they often think arguments are obvious, because they are based on their prejudices, which are in fact absurd and which disappear like a puff of smoke the moment the matter is tested in practice.

According to the Institute for Food and Development Policy/Food First think-tank, "Enough wheat, rice and other grains are produced to provide every human being with 3,500 calories a day. That doesn't even count many other commonly eaten foods - vegetables, beans, nuts, root crops, fruits, grass-fed meats, and fish. Enough food is available to provide at least 4.3 pounds of food per person a day worldwide: two and a half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of fruits and vegetables, and nearly another pound of meat, milk and eggs - enough to make most people fat! Even most 'hungry countries' have enough food for all their people right now. Many are net exporters of food and other agricultural products."

Perhaps the problem is transport - maybe the hungry are in remote parts of the world and the food can't reach them. On the contrary, many of them are in huge cities where planes, and sometimes tourists, fly every day - places like Calcutta, Rio de Janeiro or Dhaka. Even when they are in rural refugee camps the television cameras and crews seem to get there when they want to, but not the food. Besides, we know we have the means of getting planes with bombs to all the remote places of the earth.

But actually this is only part of the story. What would we think of parents with four children and a larder full of food who allowed one of the children to starve on the grounds that the child could not afford to pay for the food? In fact poverty only leads to people going hungry for a reason that you don't find on the charity websites, namely that in capitalist society food, like almost everything else, is a commodity, a good produced for sale on the market in order to make a profit.

Socialism would deal with this seemingly intractable problem of hunger in the easiest and most obvious way, the way any ordinary family deals with it, by not treating food as a commodity and simply distributing enough of it to people to ensure that everyone has enough for a healthy diet.

Just think about what this would mean: no more starving children, no more distended bellies and vacant, staring eyes, no need for kids to work 12 hours a day in sweatshops or for old people to die in the gutter or beggars to crawl in the dirt; so much human suffering ended. Even if it achieved nothing else, this alone would be enough to justify socialism a thousand times over. But, of course, it's too good to be true; there must be a catch somewhere!

This is where those "standard objections" pop into our heads, just as they have been programmed to do. If food was distributed free there would be no incentive. Wouldn't people all stop work? Actually, no. Very few people reading this article will ever have literally gone hungry, very few people in Britain do, but we haven't all stopped work. The truth is the opposite: if you are starving you soon lose the ability to work at all and people with a decent diet work much more productively than the malnourished.

As it happens there are two major "catches" to distributing food to the hungry: the first is that the big corporations would not be able to make their billions in profits out of it, and the second is that if it would work for food it would work for other things too - housing for example.

Shelter is one of the basic requirements of human life. Yet even in the richest cities in the richest country in the world, the US, there are homeless people sleeping on the streets, just as there are in London. In the mega-cities of the world's poorer countries, with their favellas and shanty towns, the problem is horrendous.

Socialist planning would solve this problem very simply. Take Britain as a starting point. Strictly speaking, there is no housing shortage in Britain, only a shortage of affordable housing. Dealing with the immediate problem of homelessness would just involve requisitioning the empty properties, the mansions and second and third homes of the rich. But a permanent solution is easy to envisage. Use the census to estimate the housing needs of the population (something like this happens already) and establish a public house building programme, employing thousands of bricklayers, carpenters and other building workers to build slightly more houses than are needed. Then make the provision of a modest but decent residence for every family or individual citizen a basic right, in the same way that every child has a right to a place in school, or the NHS provides free health care for all. In other words, stop treating houses as a commodity and distribute them on the basis of need.

The same principles could be applied to transport. At present transport is a complete mess. Technologically, of course, it is possible to transport people around the world more efficiently than ever before in history, but under capitalism the organisation of transport is both inefficient and destructive. The main form of transport is the private car, and car ownership and use have become so widespread that the roads are clogged up (to the point where in London travel by horse and carriage in the 19th century was as quick) and the pollution generated is a major contributor to climate change.

The socialist solution is obvious: set up a comprehensive integrated system of free public transport. This would involve a huge expansion of the railways for freight and intercity travel, since they are clearly faster, more cost efficient and more environmentally friendly than cars and lorries. Within towns it could be a combination of trams, buses, subways, monorails, minibuses and bicycles. The precise details don't matter here. The point is that, provided the public transport was sufficiently extensive and effective, the private car, with its attendant problems of parking, congestion, accidents, petrol and pollution, could virtually be eliminated in urban areas (and rural areas too if the public network was extensive enough).

So at this point we have free food, housing and transport along with, I assume, free health and education. Inevitably the question arises, "How would this all be paid for?" Given the unbelievable sums raised to bail out the banks in recent months this question loses much of its charge, but in any case there are two answers to it depending on how far we look into the matter. The first answer is simply that it would be paid for out of taxation, as the NHS, schools and, of course, the armed services and their wars are at present. Clearly if food, housing and transport were all free, people would have more money to pay tax with.

However, looking a bit further we have to remember that money does not itself create wealth, or goods or services. Only the application of labour to nature does that. Money is just a means of exchanging goods and services that have become commodities. The less goods and services are treated as commodities, and socialism would systematically reduce commodity production until it disappeared, the less role money will have. So the real question becomes, would it be possible for society to allocate sufficient labour to grow and distribute enough food to feed everyone adequately, to build enough houses for everyone and to make and operate enough transport.

But how would all these collectively owned industries be run? Wouldn't it involve vast armies of state bureaucrats, at best soulless jobsworths and at worst monstrous tyrants?

Given the history of state ownership and planning in the 20th century - Stalin's Russia and Kim Il-Sung's North Korea at one end and British Rail and the NHS at the other - this is a natural and important question. And the answer to it goes to the very heart of what we mean by the socialist alternative.
JosephHogan

Con

JosephHogan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
AjGunnersson

Pro

AjGunnersson forfeited this round.
JosephHogan

Con

JosephHogan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
AjGunnersson

Pro

AjGunnersson forfeited this round.
JosephHogan

Con

JosephHogan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 4
AjGunnersson

Pro

AjGunnersson forfeited this round.
JosephHogan

Con

JosephHogan forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 5
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